My first introduction to Oak Hills Church in Folsom, California was in the early 2000s at a gathering called the Spiritual Formation Forum in Los Angeles.
Several hundred, primarily church leaders like myself, were hungering for and exploring deeper ways of forming adults spiritually in Jesus’ name.
I sat in on a session with Mike Lueken and Kent Carlson, co-lead pastors of Oak Hills. I heard them rawly unpack a story about what they were leading their church through and it deeply resonated with me, because the church I represented was going through similar questions. “Is anybody really growing around here?” Their story later was told in Renovation of the Church: What Happens When a Seeker Church Discovers Spiritual Formation (IVP, 2013).
Little did I know our paths would continue to cross for another 20 plus years. And that my ongoing observations of Oak Hills would make them my teacher and would set an example at VP3 for what it means to maintain a formational approach to adult spiritual development.
Sitting now in a seat with VantagePoint3, and having the opportunity to come alongside many wonderful churches and Christian leaders, I’ve learned it is rare to maintain a formational focus and commitment to deep spiritual work over the long haul.
In the early 2000s Lueken and Carlson were looking for the right means to cultivate authentic community and depth of connection they believed could be possible. One of their choices was The Journey process discovered through their relationship with VP3 founder Randy Reese.
I sat with VP3 facilitators from Oak Hills twice in the last three years. What I noticed is the exceptional commitment they have to developing others in Jesus’ name, living out the Ephesians 4 plea from the apostle Paul to equip people for the good work of ministry.
There is a remarkable focus – which perhaps they do not even realize – on inviting adults into a life with God that has more substance, depth, and reality. I could hear these leaders’ heartfelt desires to cultivate an authentic life with Jesus that will result in transformation and a contagious expression of faith for themselves, for those around their tables, for their church, and the community.
In a recent phone call with now lead Pastor Mike Lueken, Rob Loane, President of VP3 enjoyed hearing Mike’s words,
“The VP3 processes are helping us help adults climb through barriers and discover who they are … there are just breakthroughs happening in each person … connectedness, sharing, redefining what community in Christ really is. It’s been so rich.”
He continues without hesitation, “There is no question, from my chair, The Journey and A Way of Life, continue to be the means by which hungry people here are tasting the kingdom in a way they hadn’t before. I hear one story after another of people who have been a part of this church, or another, and they enter into this process and things happen that have them in a euphoric spin.”
At VP3, we are privileged to have a part in the good work God is doing at Oak Hills. Our processes, training, partnership and encouragement help leaders there push back the tide of surface level church experiences that result in no real life change or depth.
We continue to believe that churches CAN become vital places of discipleship and growth. Christian maturity is not a pipe dream. There is a tangible reality when we encounter it. There are people who do learn and mature and take on a “family resemblance” to God’s loving family; people who persevere and exercise courage and grace.
But this, this deeply formative way, is not for everyone. It is not for those easily distracted. Or those hoping to hit a “transformation button” for quick results. It is for those looking for something more in their life with God, and the lives of those they lead, that just has not been satisfied and they are willing to move toward it.
To God be the glory, forever and ever. May God’s favor rest upon you, our friends at Oak Hills Church. Amen.